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2023 CA Board Election: Hickory Ridge Candidates Q&A Responses

The Merriweather Post shared a list of questions with all candidates seeking to represent their villages on the CA Board. The questions consisted of three long responses of 500 words or less, which focused the candidate's overarching philosophy of serving on the board, as well as four shorter answers consisting of 150 words or less, which focused on topics that have recently garnered community attention. Candidates were also free to submit a statement covering any topic they desired of 750 words or less.


Here are links to all Q&A articles. Hickory Ridge, Long Reach, Oakland Mills, River Hill, Wilde Lake.


Below are the responses from the two candidates seeking to represent Hickory Ridge: Brian England and Skye Anderson.


 

Brian England

Long Form Questions

Q1. Amenities and Services: CA provides and has to balance the cost of a wide variety of amenities and services including Open Space, gyms, outdoor pools, tot-lots, after school services, villages, etc. How do you think those services and amenities should be prioritized? Do you support increased spending on any new or existing services CA provides or should provide? If so, how much would you invest and how would you fund those increases? Where would you reduce services to pay for expanded services and amenities?


In surveys of residents, they have said what’s important to them is Open Space, Outdoor Pools and Tot Lots. I support keeping these as priorities. I also feel that after-school programs are extremely important.


In the “2017 CA Open Space Assessment” new and innovative ways to improve Open Space are recommended. Ideas like enhanced pathway edges that use native plants that require less or no mowing will save money.


This year Oakland Mills is partnering with the CA in a trial to reimagine Tot Lots so they become places where all the community can come together. Ideas include: vegetable gardens, grills, picnic table, native meadows, shade trees, and grass play areas.


If additional funding is needed it can be found by looking at more economic solutions. For example, the Hickory Ridge Board did extensive research and found play equipment that was a third of the price and the same warranty. Recently I was able to suggest a native plant specialist company that will save the CA thousands of dollars in our work to remove invasive plants and replace with native plants.


Q2. The Board’s Role: Explain your thoughts on the role of the CA Board (not CA as an organization but the board itself). Given the board’s finite time, what are the key decisions the board must make? How much time should the board spend on those key decisions vs. non-key issues? How will you approach differences with other board members? What mistakes do you think the board has made over the past year?


A key role of the board is to see that policies are followed. This was a challenge this year because the policy book presented by the CA attorney was in date order, rather than in order by topic! This was a very frustrating and time-consuming document to use and the attorney said it was the board’s responsibility to change it! In the end after seeing the chair struggling to find a policy, I made an index and shared it with the board members.


Another very important thing is to see that the recommendations made in reports like the

Columbia Watershed Plan, New Town zoning assessment, CA Open Space Assessment, and Tot Lot report are not ignored. CA resources, dollars, and staff time are wasted if the board doesn’t develop implementation policies and see that they are followed and updated.


The biggest thing that leads to an inefficient board is the lack of training before the first meeting.


Determining the issues to address is the responsibility of the Board Operations Committee, which every board member participates in over the course of a year. This is critical in setting up the board’s work sessions and the monthly meeting where the votes take place.


There are many issues that the board has to address, and each board member has different priorities. I made it a point to meet at least once with the other board members. Some of the longer-term members shared a lotof institutional knowledge on important issues. I was able to understand the important work that other board members did in investigating all aspects of New Town Zoning.


Q3. President and CEO: Due to the resignation of Lakey Boyd, CA is operating with an interim CEO and President and, if elected, you will help will choose the next president. Do you think Ms. Boyd’s departure – and associated legal fees toping over $100,000 and likely payout of several hundred thousand more – benefited the community? If so, how? What qualities will you look for in candidates for CEO and President? How will you approach the relationship between the board and future president differently than the board this past year?


I certainly wish that we didn’t have to hire outside counsel but there really was no alternative for the Board if we were going to fulfill our duties to the corporation and to the citizens of Columbia. Hopefully similar circumstances will not arise that will necessitate such expenditures.


It’s important that the next president work closely with board members. The more we work together the less likely there will be misunderstandings. Also selecting someone who has an intimate knowledge of Columbia and is going to advocate for our planned community is a priority.


Short Form Questions

Q1. Land Use: Land use and development is a controversial topic within the community. What do you think CA's role in this topic should be (if any)? What actions should CA take on this topic?


The CA should refer to Jane Dembner’s 2017 New Town Assessment Report, Andy Stack’s Final Development Plan report, and Dick Bolton’s New Town report. Then, using these reports, develop a position paper that advocates for maintaining Columbia as a Planned Community.


On top of this new development design guidelines should be developed for the rest of Columbia in the same way they were adopted in the downtown districts.


Q2. Diversity: The disparity between the demographic mix on CA's board of directors and the

community at large has been criticized. What do you think of this line of criticism? Do you think CA should take any action to address this issue?


I agree that the CA Board has never matched the diversity of the community and agree it’s problematic. The issue is that this is ultimately a Village process, not a CA process. The way I would approach this would be to inform new Columbia residents on why Columbia is special by continuing to advocate bringing back the “Columbia Visitors’ Center” and the “welcome package”.


Q3. Stream Restoration: The Lake Elkhorn Stream Restoration Project was approved by the CA Board in January 2021 with the endorsement of CA's Watershed Advisory Committee and professional staff but the board seems to be reconsidering the project. Would you support an attempt to pull CA out of the contract currently in place with Wetland Studies and Services Inc. (WSSI) to perform the stream restoration regardless of potential legal costs this could create for the community? Do you believe CA’s residents should pay for stormwater management improvements on county-owned property or property owned by individuals? What actions should CA take to address the serious erosion problems throughout the watershed and cost of dredging Lake Elkhorn?


The CA WAC supported the project before reading the damning reports from the Army Corp of Engineers and Maryland Department of the Environment. I’m sure if WAC members had seen the testimony from all the environmental groups who were against the proposal they would have had second thoughts. The WSSI plan is also out of sync with the Columbia Watershed Management Plan.


When the easement request was made the Board was not presented with the full scope of the plan, so they based their decision on their past experience of reviewing easements. I viewed the tapes and there was only 11 minutes of discussion. From the mass of documents I have reviewed so far it very clear that WSSI really missed the mark when they presented their plan.

I absolutely support pulling out of the WSSI plan, they badly missed the mark.




Q4. Corruption and Ethics: Vocal members of the community have accused board members and other members of the community of corruption. Do you believe any current board members, current of former CA staff, or candidates are corrupt (meaning they are acting for the financial benefit of themselves or a benefactor instead of the good of the community)? What policies should CA implement to mitigate the risks of corrupt board members?


No I don’t!


Our ethics policies, and the state laws under which we operate, provide clear guidance and I have not seen any evidence of any board member acting in a corrupt manner.


Statement

I have been a Hickory Ridge resident for 36 years and a Columbia resident for 50 years. I seek your vote to represent you on the CA Board for another year so I can accomplish these goals:

  • Protect and preserve CA Open Space by embracing new ideas that protect the environment.

  • Support the review and update the CA Tot Lot policies. 

  • To advocate that the CA have a leading role in Columbia redevelopment and keeping Columbia a Planned Community.

  • To continue to advocate to update the 2009 Columbia Watershed Management Plan and the 2017 CA Open Space Assessment.

  • Ensure that the CA is open and transparent


Qualifications

  • Hickory Ridge Village Center revitalization Committee member

  • Chair of the CA Watershed Advisory Committee

  • Board of Directors of Howard County Citizens Association and New Town committee chair.

  • Executive Director of the Columbia 50th Anniversary movie

  • Member of the Howard County Public engagement in land use committee

  • President of the Little Patuxent Review

  • Columbia small business owner for 45 years [Note from The Merriweather Post: Mr. England did not provide a statement; however, his response to the stormwater management question was over the allotted word count; however, his 750 word statement was well under the allotted limit so we have put the excess words below.]

Addressing stream erosion starts in the upland watershed, as every expert in the field suggests you have to emulate the forest and all stakeholders have to work together to

“Retain the rain”, “Soak it up” and “Slow the flow”. This has to happen on private property, county roads and CA property. All Best Management Practices that have been installed must be inspected and be working as designed.


Once all this is done then stream restoration should be considered.


The community pays a stormwater fee to the county so this money should be used to pay for many prevention projects NOT mega million-dollar projects like the one just finished off Gerwig Road.


The CA should require the county to address the stormwater that falls on their property and not dump it on CA Open Space via storm drains and outfalls.


 

Skye Anderson

Long Form Questions

Q1. Amenities and Services: CA provides and has to balance the cost of a wide variety of amenities and services including Open Space, gyms, outdoor pools, tot-lots, after school services, villages, etc. How do you think those services and amenities should be prioritized? Do you support increased spending on any new or existing services CA provides or should provide? If so, how much would you invest and how would you fund those increases? Where would you reduce services to pay for expanded services and amenities?


The services/programs CA provides should reflect what residents want, be prioritized via periodic surveys of members and non-members perhaps annually since the budget is approved annually. Increased/decreased spending should be a function of members desires and usage. Each board should review The Haven – how much of its demise was due to price, insufficient marketing, its being a service that residents didn’t value enough. (That might have been due to rough surveys before the decision was made. I’m not saying that hapened, but it might have contributed.)


We should strive to satisfy all segments of our population. Open Space, gyms, outdoor and indoor pools are for all ages while tot lots and after-school services are used by young families. I’d like to see a circle graph of usage, a comparison of age and usage.


Of course any survey should request suggestions.


I cannot respond on investing in new services/amenities without more knowledge of current finances and the past few years and projected years to come.


I have no recommendations on funding anything new or what I’d reduce to pay for expansions: that’s a question for staff not the board. The board directs the staff and staff figures out various methods of completing the task and reports back for final decisions.


Villages


Our 10 villages offer different amenities, rightly so. The second most populous village (HR) has only one building while the oldest village (WL), one of the smallest has four: one village building and three neighborhood structures, and therefore needs more funds. Villages receive differing amounts of operating expenses from CA. (I’d like to see the formula and have asked for it.) Perhaps the formula should be revisited every few years.


Each village is unique. One has a skating rink, another has a skateboarding structure and another has a dog park. Some have more neighborhoods than others and some have only single family homes (not condos, apartments, townhouses and single family homes). Because each village is unique, people tend to frequent more than just their village.


Village-CA Partnership


I’d like to see CA and the villages share resources more. E.g., if a small HOA needs to replace outside steps and doesn’t know how to select the appropriate workers or even if certain workers are needed (design engineer, e.g.) or the process and departmental forms to fill out, CA could have a list of those companies to provide it to the HOA or village without endorsing any but still saving time for the HOA.


Perhaps CA could loan out services like IT to a village, or Human Resources or Training or Legal. For example, I asked if CA’s General Counsel could give my village board training in the three fiduciary responsibilities but was told it might be considered favoritism - also I wondered about a possible conflict or interest or mixing levels of an organization.


Such sharing could have a fee associated with it and would necessitate additional meetings and minutes.



Q2. The Board’s Role: Explain your thoughts on the role of the CA Board (not CA as an organization but the board itself). Given the board’s finite time, what are the key decisions the board must make? How much time should the board spend on those key decisions vs. non-key issues? How will you approach differences with other board members? What mistakes do you think the board has made over the past year?


I’ve spoken on the role of boards to both CA and village board meetings. Basically, the board makes major decisions and sets policy while the staff carries them out. Think of the board as deciding WHAT and the staff as doing HOW. A board is strategic while staff is tactical.


As for details, a board is primarily responsible for

1. financial stewardship, and also for

2. hiring/evaluating the president/CEO (time-consuming).


Boards are not responsible for the day-to-day business of the organization – not for every little contract, lease, job description or expense. We have staff to take care of that: staff experts serve as the continuity of the organization.


Other Key Decisions


A new tot lot policy will evolve and perhaps a new ethics/conflict of interest policy or changes to the current one. If necessary, most if not all other decisions may be delegated to the interim CEO-president and his staff, very highly qualified people with expertise, credentials and years of experience.


How much time should the board spend on key issues? I’d like to say as much as necessary but if each board member comes to meetings having read the board packet and discussed it with constituents and colleagues, meetings should smoother than they currently are. I’m not convinced having a working session followed by a voting meeting is successful as practiced. Rather, an issue should appear as New Business and at the following meeting, be voted upon in Old Business, thus speeding up decisions.


On the other hand, you may be looking for a response like this: “The board should spend 80% of the time on key issues.” I cannot say that!


Differences and Mistakes


CA Boards simply must receive board training. This lack may have been responsible for some misunderstandings this year in that board members have not brought up topics in the most efficient manner (misunderstandings like the apparent lack of transparency and irresponsible budgeting).


As an example (I will use the village level here), sometimes board members initiate a topic iin a board meeting and explain it, then the board discusses it, ad infinitum, all without much prior thought. This wastes time in meetings. The preferred manner is to speak with the village manager first to see if it is feasible, if it has been tried recently and didn’t work out well, if the staff has time and resources to implement it in the near future. Then, with that information, the idea can be broached, with the additional information, for a structured discussion at the board meeting with a greater chance of being approved.


It’s not necessary for all board members to get along well with each other as long as they can work together with polite consideration for each other. Of course, board training sessions will go a long way toward accomplishing this since then, all members will understand the process that works efficiently and will know their roles. If some team-building exercises are built into the training, so much the better.



Q3. President and CEO: Due to the resignation of Lakey Boyd, CA is operating with an interim CEO and President and, if elected, you will help will choose the next president. Do you think Ms. Boyd’s departure – and associated legal fees toping over $100,000 and likely payout of several hundred thousand more – benefited the community? If so, how? What qualities will you look for in candidates for CEO and President? How will you approach the relationship between the board and future president differently than the board this past year?


No.


Ms. Boyd’s departure and its cost caused harm. First, she was hired by a majority of the (previous) board after an extensive national search (local candidates were considered). The current board was poised to not be neutral.


I met Ms. Boyd when masked but she thereafter remembered me (granted, there are not many Skye’s), a minor point. Not minor is her participation in Columbia life. You saw her around town - she chose to live in the middle of it. Her ideas were lauded by libraries to HCC to the NAACP to her employees.


She did no harm and actually knew how boards are supposed to work, tirelessly trying to convince the board. E.g., a board member passes a question up to the board chair who contacts the CEO who assigns it to the appropriate person with the expertise and time - no crossing over from board to staff – the staff have regular jobs to do and should not be burdened by a multitude of questions from one person.


It was very expensive to accept her resignation rather than work to change the board and their operations. Not only were legal fees of approximately $100,000 expensive and not what good financial stewards would do to their constituents, but the loss of a CEO for over a year will be irreplaceable monetarily. An interim will not make major changes but will continue the status quo: in addition, his job must be filled, on down the line.


What has this done to our reputation? Will qualified candidates be interested after learning the working conditions? Add the cost of searching for a headhunter, for job announcements, for interviews. It will take time away from board duties and for senior management, not to mention the learning curve of a new CEO.


I want a CEO-President who is well-rounded with a broad background. She needn’t be an expert but should know how to find them. She will understand her staff to bring out the best in them. Of course, she will use parliamentary procedure, as should the board: this must be part of board training to alleviate any consequent misunderstandings.


Our CEO will respond to subordinates (CA employees and members), communicate with peers across the community, and have managers of her own, the board. Again, if the board does its job of setting policy and leaves daily tasks to the CEO/staff, things should work out well. It is when these lines are crossed that misunderstandings occur.


Comparing CA with villages, each village manager (VM) conducts daily operations while boards, ‘absent’ during working hours, depend on the VM to carry out policy, put out fires. Sometimes, the VM literally runs things and merely reports to the board.


Because I understand the power and promise of parliamentary procedure (giving the minority a voice, not permitting bias) I strive to honor process over product. When the process is equitable, the product will likely be good. If the process is flawed, so might the product.


Short Form Questions

Q1. Land Use: Land use and development is a controversial topic within the community. What do you think CA's role in this topic should be (if any)? What actions should CA take on this topic?


Land Use and Design is one of the five Guiding Principles of CA. I will do my best to convey this aspect to my constituents who are not aware of it. Basically we decided that a mix of


-Residential,

-Shopping,

-Recreational,

-Cultural, and

-Employment


will meet the needs of our diverse population. It is the exact proportion of each that evolves with time. We must do our best to accommodate new residents and jobs so we can support the transportation and services that we need and want.


Residents will want to live downtown near amenities as well as in our suburban areas with amenities, both within walking or biking distances for as many people as possible. We want livable areas near both work and shopping. CA should be a partner in land use planning along with the county and villages.


Q2. Diversity: The disparity between the demographic mix on CA's board of directors and the

community at large has been criticized. What do you think of this line of criticism? Do you think CA should take any action to address this issue?


I agree! However, CA can only indirectly address it across all villages by reaching out, serving all residents and asking them to help. With more opportunities will come added participation from all segments of the population. Although my role on the Board is not to generate ideas, I can’t help myself:

  • colorful, widespread campaigns like the orange/red Columbia Votes fliers for the election,

  • a greater presence on social media for all ages,

  • regular programs at the 50+ centers and elementary schools,

  • ‘Columbia Conversations,’

  • events like “Coffee with a Cop,”

  • drawings for a 3-month membership,

  • an active speakers bureau,

  • village events like Clean Up days for yard sales/food drives,

  • events with the college/library like the Spelling Bee, and

  • resurrecting the CA Volunteer Corps and Time Bank.


We must reach out to all residents every day and night, 24/7.


“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”


Q3. Stream Restoration: The Lake Elkhorn Stream Restoration Project was approved by the CA Board in January 2021 with the endorsement of CA's Watershed Advisory Committee and professional staff but the board seems to be reconsidering the project. Would you support an attempt to pull CA out of the contract currently in place with Wetland Studies and Services Inc. (WSSI) to perform the stream restoration regardless of potential legal costs this could create for the community? Do you believe CA’s residents should pay for stormwater management improvements on county-owned property or property owned by individuals? What actions should CA take to address the serious erosion problems throughout the watershed and cost of dredging Lake Elkhorn?


We must consider the advice of our experts and weigh (legal) costs against benefits for every contingency. Given time, we could reconsider by holding information sessions if both sides are presented.


We should also convince county and private landowners to do their share of mitigation.

The board should direct Staff to provide pro’s and con’s of the Lake Elkhorn stream restoration plan when drafted. Staff’s expert advice leans heavily in favor of restoration; however, passionate vocal residents disagree. The board must weigh their expertise against that of the experts’. Other considerations include the cost of doing nothing and possibly having to make ‘Sophie’s Choice’ – the lesser of two evils.


There is no doubt the board and staff have learned lessons from the previous Longfellow situation which was an ugly process but resulted in the healthier ecosystem we have today. Remember: various types of stream restoration exist.


Q4. Corruption and Ethics: Vocal members of the community have accused board members and other members of the community of corruption. Do you believe any current board members, current of former CA staff, or candidates are corrupt (meaning they are acting for the financial benefit of themselves or a benefactor instead of the good of the community)? What policies should CA implement to mitigate the risks of corrupt board members?


The average resident is naive. The average aware resident only knows generalities since CA meetings appear polite.


Board members, candidates and staff are not corrupt regarding finances, but I’ve observed dishonesty, lack of integrity, and disloyalty. However, I am most aware of second-hand information - not an incumbent, I am not privy to facts.


Nevertheless, I believe we should not only strive to avoid conflicts of interest but also the appearance of conflicts of interest. Any conflict of interest should be revealed but people disagree as to what constitutes a conflict of interest. It shouldn’t be in the eyes of the person involved but according to the others on the board, the general counsel, or the audit committee.


A robust, transparent ethics and conflict of interest policy is required. We must also avoid bias and apparent bias which is prevalent when parliamentary procedure is ignored.


Statement


Who is Skye and Why Should You Vote for Her?

Starting in graduate school when I served on the board of our housing unit, then to a board

position on a local crisis intervention center, my HOA, and the Hickory Ridge Village Board, I

have learned an incredible amount and want to continue to pass on that knowledge and

wisdom in service for the greater good – and for you!


It took me a while to respond when I was first asked to run for CA Rep, but then I realized

how much I have become a “Columbian” over the past 33 years in Clarys Forest. I thought

back and realized I have attended every CA board meeting over the past year and spoken

during Resident Speak-out at all but one – topics as diverse as ethics, subject matter experts,

board duties, parliamentary procedure, changing your mind.


A Process Person


Someone recently pointed out to me that I am a process person and I agree. If the process is

good, open and appropriate, the end product has a better chance of being effective but when

the process is not equitable, you may or may not end up with a good, successful decision.

The ends do not always justify the means. The minority should have an equal voice when

request. The board chair is not a leader as much as a moderator, ensuring “all have a seat at

the table.” I do believe in the power of parliamentary procedure which levels the playing field

and would shorten any 4-hour board meeting!


Bridging The Gap

I have new ideas for “bridging the gap” between those who make decisions and those for

whom decisions are made.


Do Drop In (Dew Drop Inn?)


One of these is “Drop-in Office Hours.” I plan to hold open discussions for our village and CA

weekly at various times and places, from the Hawthorn Center patio to Mad City Cafe to, yes,

Starbucks in Wilde Lake to benches outside where we can find them – for you and your dog

even! Topics will help me represent you at CA board meetings – the good, the bad and the

others.


What’s on the Web?


The Hickory Ridge website has had a page devoted to the CA Rep for quite some time but it

has been drastically underused. I will not let it die but will post at least twice a month,

answering questions, disseminating information about votes during CA board meetings

(unofficial, of course, until the minutes are approved), announcing the next CA meeting,

encouraging people to speak out in Resident Speak-out and doing what I can to bridge our

village and CA. That blog will be called the Hickory-Hillside Hive (Hillside is the street where

CA headquarters is located.) Which amenities do you want/not want, how can CA help the

villages, are we diverse enough? Do you want to learn to count to ten in Thai or Vietnamese?

We can do that! We are Hickory Ridge! What’s the difference between the WAC and the RAC,

besides one letter?


The Hickory Hive: It Takes a Village!


Your CA Board member must be experienced in many areas - not necessarily an expert, but

with some knowledge and with the ability to ask the right questions of the right people, and to

listen well. A single-issue person cannot effectively serve our village on more than that one

issue and this year CA has several priorities: effective financial planning, hiring a new CEO,

updating the Strategic Plan, . . . .


I will depend on a bevy of advisors, long-time and new residents, singles and families, young

and old, and especially those experts in fields like HR, the environment, engineering,

accounting. Let me know if you want to be part of the Hickory Hive, our village advisory team!

Please exercise your right and responsibility to vote and “Vote for Skye.”

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